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The foregoing I have paced with for a year now until one day I realize that all this may have been Mozart's conundrum, too, namely, that he was taken in as much as he cultivated his own sincerity and approachableness. An idea of Mozart existed for Mozart himself to follow -- to laugh with and at those others who posed him. And this, I'm eager now to admit, may have been the thing Krafft has painted, that is, if a painting can still be finished after it is done. If the essence of Mozart is to cover and reveal in equal measure, then Krafft nails him. In her brush, she has copied the copier. While I don't want the copy or the copier to be the original, while I don't want Mozart to be Krafft's common notion but, rather, a kind of ravishing imp in the aesthetic woods, still I must accept the man Krafft has captured. Through her comes Mozart's magnanimity, which bridges the eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries and is constantly becoming the way a world in need of his music demands he be.

Barbara Krafft's painting of Mozart
Barbara Krafft's painting of Mozart

The urge of the postmodern, which distinguishes our age, is to demythologize legends. And yet were we to demythologize Mozart we would lose that irresistible quality which prompted us to fall in love with him in the first place. Which prompted Constanze to fall in love with him and to have Krafft, many years after his death, paint him just so: a Mozart, reflecting not his -- for they cannot be found -- but our limitations: to see in the creator as much a brother as an entertainer. That limitation may have been resonating in Gustav Mahler, in 1911, when he died. Consumed by a streptococcal blood infection, carried to bed, given oxygen to breathe, Mahler was watched over by his wife, Alma. She reported that during his final moments she watched his fingers, bouncing in the conductor's supple way, direct what seemed a jaunty melody. She leaned in close, placed her ear close to his mouth, and heard his final words: 'Mozart. Mozart.'

Copyright © 8 April 2007 Thomas Larson, California USA


Thomas Larson, journalist, critic, and memoirist, is a contributing writer for the San Diego Reader. He is the author of The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative, Swallow Press, 2007. He lives in San Diego, California, USA.

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